Yamaha developing remote-control spraying helicopter business

21-12-2017 | |
Yamaha developing remote-control spraying helicopter business

Japan’s Yamaha Motor may be best known for its sports motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, but the company has started promoting the use of another of its product lines in Australia, New Zealand and the USA: remotely-piloted helicopters for crop spraying.

Yamaha Fazer R remote pilot agri helicopter 01-cr-Yamaha

Yamaha Fazer R remote pilot.

This activity is well established for pest and disease control in rice crops in Japan, where Yamaha says more than 2,500 of its aircraft spray an estimated 42% of the nation’s rice paddy fields.

Yamaha’s first unmanned helicopter for spraying crop-protection chemicals was released in 1989 and 2 models are available today, equipped with liquid or granule application systems.

Yamaha Fazer R Turn Assistance 02-cr-Yamaha

Yamaha Fazer R remote pilot.

The 246cc RMax has a practical payload of 16kg in 2 quick-change saddle tanks, while the newer Fazer R, which has a 27hp 390cc motor, carries 32-litres and can typically treat 1ha (2.47 acres) per flight.

Fazer R helicopter

The Fazer R recently gained Turn Assistance as standard, which uses satellite guidance and a gyroscope to automate end-of-pass turns when activated by the operator flicking the spray on-off switch on the remote control transmitter.

This new feature is designed to ensure evenly spaced passes and a consistent flying speed without relying on the pilot’s flying skills.

Yamaha Fazer R Turn Assistance 01-cr-Yamaha

Yamaha Fazer R remote pilot.

Outside Japan, Yamaha Motor is developing a crop treatment service that could lead to commercial operators buying and operating the small-scale aircraft.

At present, the federal aviation authority in the USA permits Yamaha alone to operate a spraying helicopter ‘drone’ for research and to trial commercial services.

Yamaha YMR-01 agri drone 01-cr-Yamaha

Yamaha YMR-01

While full-size fixed wing and rotorcraft are a familiar site spraying corn, rice and other crops in the US, Yamaha Precision Agriculture is confident small-scale helicopters have a role to play in certain circumstances.

Those could include field areas denied to manned aircraft because of power lines or adjoining sensitive crops, or narrow-spaced vines, often grown on hillsides, such as in California and the Pacific north-west that can only be treated on foot using backpack sprayers to control powdery mildew.

Yamaha YMR-01 agri drone 02-cr-Yamaha

Yamaha YMR-01

Peter Hill Machinery writer